According to a notification I just received, today is my 10-year anniversary on WordPress. Originally, this was little more than a webpage introducing me as an aspiring PhD candidate. At the time it was generally believed that having an online presence was a good thing, and I thought it might impress the admissions boards at the universities where I was applying.
In terms of content, I gradually started posting things that I thought would interest people like me: job adverts, calls for papers, and yes, a series of posts about complexity theory in language education. Eventually I started focussing more on the literature, and sharing notes from the reading I was doing. This led to posts about topics such as English as a Lingua Franca, Content and Language Integrated Learning and more. I must have been doing something well, because the blog began to be mentioned in ELT blogs and journals as a useful resource.
By 2014, the blog was getting approximately 250 hits a day, the content began to diversify and I wrote some of the posts that I am most happy with. These included:
- The ‘fake papers’ post (Fake papers are not the real problem in science): In this post I noted that questionable research practices were just a symptom of deeper problems in our research culture. These thoughts were subsequently republished in SAGE Social Science Space, and PLOSOne.
- The ‘conference to journal’ post (Can I publish a conference paper in a journal?): This post was written in response to a student query, who wanted advice on how to follow up on a successful presentation. The answer, by the way, is ‘yes, you can, but…’
- The ‘primary English’ post (Primary English Language Teaching does more harm than good): At the time, Greek ELT was dominated by beliefs and policies stemming from the University of Athens Research Centre of English Language, who insisted that ‘the sooner (one starts teaching English), the better’. I was always sceptical about this claim, but I thought I was a minority of one until I attended a debate in IATEFL, which is reported in this post.
- The ‘mother language’ post (International Mother Language Day): This post, which was prompted by the International Mother Language Day in 2014, challenges some of the more problematic language policies encountered in Greece.
I continued blogging in 2015, at which time I think that my writing became more confident. Some of the better posts I wrote at that time included:
- The ‘aptitude’ post (Is there a talent for language learning?): This post discusses the construct of Language Learning Aptitude, which is the ‘talent’ some learners have to learn languages with relative ease and speed.
- The ‘researching multilingually’ series of posts: This is a series of five posts with advice on how to obtain consent, generate data and present findings when researching across languages.
- The ‘Complexity in ELT (redux)’ post (Complexity in ELT: What it is and what it isn’t), where I provide a definition of complexity for language education, which I hope is not too technical.
Taking a break. And restarting
I tried to continue blogging after I took up a new job at the University of Graz, even though attitudes towards blogging in my new academic context were complicated. On the one hand, there was an expectation that, if I kept blogging, I should use my social media resources to advertise the work of the department, by posting content that was not relevant to an international audience. On the other hand, I had to contend with widespread suspicion (‘let’s be careful about what we share’) and passive aggressive comments (‘You have too much free time’) that inevitably followed after every post was published. After a few posts where I tried to share useful academic content, I decided it was just not worth the aggravation, and took a long break. Perhaps ironically, although I posted very little between January 2016 and May 2018, the number of visitors kept growing: In March 2017, it peaked at an average of 496 hits per day.
I began working on the blog again after Easter 2018, prompted by two major changes. Firstly, I had decided to leave the University of Graz, which meant that any restrictions or expectations to toe the party line were becoming less relevant. Secondly, this was the time when my first monograph (A Language School as a Complex System) came out, and I was already working on a second major publication (Challenging Boundaries in Language Education). I think I am not unique in investing a lot of thought and affect in my books, and sharing this work, or at least aspects of it, with a wide audience of people who might be interested seemed like the most reasonable thing to do.
So here we are…
Over the course of these ten years, this blog has seen many transformations. Starting as a simple webpage, it became a place to share thoughts, occassionally useful. Its content changed, hopefully towards the better. Its author has changed. But one thing that has remained constant is its readership, and your unfailing support. Support sometimes came in the form of questions, which – to me – signal trust. Sometimes it came in the form of kind and encouraging comments, and sometimes it came in the form of feedback that helped me to refine my thinking. When it was not explicit, support was there implicitly in your continued engagement with my thinking, even when my posting became erratic. For all this, I am most grateful.